A meeting of the traditionally right-wing student fraternity association, the Burschenschaften, kicked off near the central German town of Eisenach in Thuringia on Friday morning with a rare press conference, the Süddeutsche Zeitung said on Friday.
“We’re trying to find new unity,” Burschenschaften spokesman Burkhard G. Mötz told the conference. He added that organisation was looking into who or what exactly was a “German student.”
The meeting, in which membership rules will be a key area of discussion, will attempt to unite the organisation in the wake of a bitter divide between far-right and liberal elements.
The split came to a head earlier this year, when 18 liberal fraternities voted to leave the umbrella organisation in protest over what they said was growing extremist sentiment.
Approximately 1,500 of the 10,000 members are thought to align themselves with various degrees of extremist nationalism. Burschenschaft customs include wearing cadet-style uniforms, carrying fencing rapiers and taking part in torch-lit parades.
Back in 2011, a Burschenschaft fraternity group was said to have been excluded by the umbrella Dachverband der Deutschen Burschenschaft (DB) organisation because they had accepted into their ranks a member of Chinese origin, raising questions about membership being decided on ethnic criteria, said the paper.
Now, at this weekend’s meeting, the DB is looking to change Burschenschaft membership rules, but have not given further details, causing rumours to circulate in the press that the changes will strengthen the importance of German ethnic origin for members.